Challenge filed on city appeal fee

A Hood River resident who filed an initiative for the November ballot to limit city land use appeal fees has challenged the ballot title and language drafted by the Hood River city attorney.

Richard Derek Bell, the chief petitioner for the initiative, and attorney Brent Foster challenged the ballot measure caption, question and summary language drafted by City Attorney Dan Kearns, contending it shows bias against the ballot measure.

The measure would cap citizen appeal feels at $500 or 1 percent of their demonstrated annual income and $500 for registered nonprofit corporations.

The caption drafted by Kearns reads: “Amendment to the city charter regarding land use appeal fees.”

Foster argued the caption should reference the fact that measure is to limit appeal fees.

However, he took even bigger issue with the question posed by the measure.

The question drafted by Kearns reads: Shall the city revise its charter to subsidize with public funds land use appeal fees for certain groups and individuals?”

Foster contends that since the word “subsidy” is not found in the text of the measure submitted by Bell, Michelle Hollister and Linda Maddox, the language in the city attorney ballot title is biased.

“Nowhere in the measure does the word subsidy get used; it’s just putting a cap on what the fees would be,” Foster said.

Kearns denied the language was biased and said his ballot title was merely stating what the measure was and what it would do.

“The ballot title I prepared was an accurate representation of it, warts and all, and we’ll see what the judge decides,” Kearns said.

The challenge was filed in Hood River County Circuit Court and will likely be heard at some point in the next few weeks as the petitioners attempt to get the measure on the November.

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